What Are South Carolina's Move Over Laws? | The Jeffcoat Firm

What Are South Carolina’s Move Over Laws?

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In emergency situations, authorized vehicles need to arrive at emergency scenes as soon as possible. Other motorists are expected to help provide a clear passageway for such vehicles. When an emergency vehicle is stopped an emergency scene, other drivers are required to move over to the next lane. If that is impossible, they should slow down and proceed with caution. What are South Carolina’s move over laws?

Many states make this a requirement and have enacted so-called “move over” laws. The South Carolina move over law is also known as the “Emergency Scenes” law. Violations of this law are misdemeanor offenses that carry potential fines.

Many drivers panic when they see emergency lights. Some people freeze and become uncertain about what actions to take. Others ignore the lights and continue like normal. If you do this, you may receive a ticket for violating the move over law. Any traffic ticket carries the possibility of a fine and possible points being added to a driving record. You are allowed to fight these tickets.

Were you recently cited for an alleged violation of the South Carolina move over law or involved in a car accident caused by a move over violation? Contact The Jeffcoat Firm as soon as possible. Call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

What Are South Carolina’s Move Over Laws?

What is the move over law? The move over law is established under South Carolina Code § 56-5-1538. The statute states that an emergency scene is a special hazard and is a “location designated by the potential need to provide emergency medical care and is identified by emergency vehicles with flashing lights, rescue equipment, or emergency personnel on the scene.”

The law further states that all motor vehicles passing through emergency scenes are required to obey and not interfere with the duties of emergency personnel. Drivers approaching emergency scenes are required to:

  • Keep vehicle under control
  • Proceed with due caution
  • Reduce vehicle speed
  • Yield the right of way by making a lane change into an adjacent lane
  • Maintain a safe speed for the road conditions when changing lanes is not possible

The statute defines an authorized emergency vehicle as any of the following when authorized by the state, a county, or a municipality to respond to a traffic incident:

  • Ambulance
  • Police vehicle
  • Fire vehicle
  • Rescue vehicle
  • Recovery vehicle
  • Towing vehicle

Emergency services personnel are defined as fire, police, or emergency medical services (EMS) personnel responding to an emergency incident. The law states that paid or volunteer workers at emergency scenes have proper authority to be at and control the scenes in a manner consistent with their training.

Why Does South Carolina Have a Move Over Law?

Move over laws are designed specifically for the benefit of emergency personnel. Whether it is EMTs tending to patients, firefighters rushing to batting a blaze, or police officers handling a traffic stop, move over laws intend to provide a measure of safety for these emergency personnel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that South Carolina was actually the first state in the nation to enact a move over law in 1996. Now, all 50 states have move over laws.

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), over 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. Since 1981, the fatalities included four South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers.

The SCDPS also reported in a 2009 press release that a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission, found that 71 percent of Americans had not heard of move over laws.

The move over law in South Carolina is intended to require drivers to move over to provide a single lane buffer for emergency vehicles, but the requirement is a bit more complex in temporary work zones. A driver should not yield the right of way by making a lane change into a lane adjacent to a temporary work vehicle or equipment when they are on a highway with at least four lanes.

What Happens If I Break the Move Over Law?

A violation of the move over law is a misdemeanor offense in South Carolina. State law requires a violator to be fined a minimum of $300 up to $500.

Similarly, South Carolina Code § 56-5-1536 is the state law that provides protection for highway workers in temporary work zones.

A temporary work zone is also defined as a special hazard and is an area identified by orange work zone signs or equipment with flashing lights, and the presence of workers on the scene. The same move over requirements apply, and violations of this statute are also punishable by fines of at least $300 up to $500.

Temporary work zones certainly apply to many construction areas, but a crash scene may be referred to as a temporary work zone or an emergency scene. In these types of areas, it is not uncommon for some drivers to engage in “rubbernecking,” which is a term used to describe motorists who slow down or even stop to try and look at what happened at an accident scene.

Multiple agencies routinely make efforts to raise public awareness of move over laws. The South Carolina Department of Transportation has assisted in the creation and distribution of public service announcements (PSAs). The state placed “Move Over Or Reduce Speed For Stopped Emergency Vehicles” signs at various locations on major roadways such as Interstate 20, Interstate 26, Interstate 77, Interstate 85, Interstate 95, Interstate 385 and Interstate 526.

What Should I Do If I Get a Move Over Law Ticket?

If you have received a ticket for an alleged move over violation in South Carolina, it is in your best interest to seek legal representation. Instead of paying a fine and pleading guilty to an offense that could cause additional driving record problems later on, your attorney may be able to have the citation completely dismissed.

Some people have justifiable explanations for alleged move over law violations. Certain drivers may not have seen emergency vehicles, or emergency lights may not have been active.

The Jeffcoat Firm represents residents and visitors issued traffic tickets in South Carolina. You can have our lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Michael Jeffcoat


“When I went to law school, I didn’t know at first that I wanted to be a lawyer for injured people, but the more I saw and learned in the early years of practicing law about what big corporations and insurance companies do and how they behave, the more it became clear to me that I needed to be a plaintiff’s lawyer,” he recalls.

Learn More About Michael


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